11/27/2012 03:26 pm ET

Menopause: Relaxation Therapy Reduces Hot Flashes And Other Symptoms

If you're a middle-aged woman, chances are you know all about waking up at night, drenched in sweat, sometimes hot and -- annoyingly -- sometimes cold.

But there's good news for menopausal women suffering from hot flashes. Researchers in Sweden have found that women trained in relaxation therapy actually cut their menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, in half.

Elizabeth Nedstrand of Linkoping University and colleagues at Linkoping University Hospital explained that women who visited a doctor for moderate to severe menopausal symptoms that occurred at least 50 times a week -- but who were otherwise healthy -- were randomly assigned to two groups: one that had 10 sessions of group relaxation therapy and the other that received no treatment.

As part of her doctoral thesis, Nedstrand conducted the therapy, which was focused on teaching the women about their bodies' muscle groups and how to use breathing techniques to relax.

“The participants were given exercises to practice daily at home,” Nedstrand said in a press release. “The goal was for them to learn to use the method on their own and to be able to manage their own symptoms.”

The women were asked to keep a diary of their hot flashes during the therapy and for three months afterwards. In addition, they also were told to fill out "quality of life" surveys as well as submit a saliva sample so that levels of cortisol -- dubbed the stress hormone -- could be analyzed.

Researchers said the results were dramatic. The women in the treatment group reduced the number of hot flashes per day from an average of 9.1 to 4.4 -- and the decrease remained for three months after the last therapy session. The numbers in the control group also decreased, but only from 9.7 to 7.8.

The women in the therapy group also reported improved quality of life as it pertains to memory and concentration, sleep and anxiety.

"The study confirms that applied relaxation can help women with menopausal troubles. My hope is that women can be offered this treatment in primary care and from private health care providers," Nedstrand said.

In addition to relaxation therapy, previous research has found that a low-fat diet also can reduce menopausal hot flashes and night sweats. Other research published just last month found that clinical hypnosis helped women chill in the face of uncomfortable hot flashes.

Check out our slideshow of 10 natural remedies for reducing menopausal symptoms.



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